Paint the Town Orange
By Dale Wyngarden
May 2, 2019
This Tulip Time, locals and visitors will be treated to a profusion of orange in addition to the million or so tulips brightening up the town. It will be something of a Dutch twist on the old idiom of painting the town red. Businesses, in particular, will be encouraged to incorporate orange in window displays.
Why orange? The answer is easy. And it isn’t. The royal family of the Netherlands refers to its lineage as The House of Orange. Simple enough; but the “why” gets trickier.
For most of us of Dutch heritage, a simple family surname is sufficient. If our ancestors didn’t already have one, Napoleon saw to it they adopted one. It facilitated collecting taxes throughout his empire. That’s how many of us inherited names connected with occupations or places. Sawyer or Miller. Field or Lake.
This was a bit too commonplace for European royalty, though. They came to refer to their family lineage as “The House of …”. Perhaps we were compelled to learn of a few in History 101, forgotten as soon as the final exam was turned in. Our inexplicable fascination with British royalty, though, keeps us familiar with The House of Windsor. Hollywood has done the same for the Romanovs of Russia.
The Dutch didn’t decide they needed a king and a royal family until 1815 when Napoleon was defeated and the yoke of two decades of French rule was lifted. The king they chose came from a long line of governors that had led the republic for almost 230 years. And that line was the House of Orange.
Orange was a small village in southern France that was recognized as an independent fiefdom in the Holy Roman Empire in 1163. Over time, its rulers strengthened power and land holdings throughout Europe. It was an heir to these holdings, William the Silent, Prince of Orange, who led the Northern Provinces of the Netherlands in rebellion against a century of Spanish rule in 1572. William is regarded the founder of the Dutch republic, and his successors consolidated their leadership and power. It was from this lineage a monarch was ultimately chosen.
The Netherlands flag is red, white and blue. The national color of celebration and Dutch pride is orange. As we splash the color around our own community, it is also an expression of gratitude for the sacrifices and perseverance that laid a solid foundation for the Holland we call home.
Dale Wyngarden served as City Planner of Holland for many years. This Tulip Fest you can find him driving a trolley and sharing his extensive knowledge of our town with visitors and locals alike.